Solid Support for Renewable Energy

By Rona Johnson
The federal government's support for renewable energy seems to be stronger than ever, even as the world sinks into what is expected to be a deep recession.

I believe President Barack Obama's choice for U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu was a wise one, especially in light of last year's record-high oil prices. I don't think there is any doubt that Chu understands the situation this nation faces and that he knows what needs to be done to face the challenges that lie ahead. As he said in his statement before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in January: "Last year's rapid spike in oil and gasoline process not only contributed to the recession we are now experiencing, it also put a huge strain on the budgets of families all across America. Although prices are now lower, providing some relief to American consumers, we know that our economy remains vulnerable to future price swings. We must make a greater, more committed push toward energy independence and, with it, a more secure energy system."

To give readers an even better idea of the administration's support for renewable energy, Senior Staff Writer Ron Kotrba conducted an interview with Valri Lightner, the new director of the U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Biomass Program. The program, according to Lightner, is focused on next-generation technologies and driving down the costs of these processes so the new renewable fuels standard can be met. To find out more about the Biomass Program and its direction, read Kotrba's feature, "Biomass: A Federal Perspective" on page 42.

Time and the economic situation will tell what lies ahead for the biomass industry, but it's comforting to know that the federal government still understands the dangers of heavily relying on foreign oil and that high gasoline prices had a hand in causing our current financial situation.

I hate to end this column on a low note, but I'm not as confident that the U.S. Congress can help us out of this recession, judging by the trillion-dollar stimulus package that was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, our lawmakers need to stop worrying about reelection and their own futures, and start making decisions that are best for the future of the entire country. On the other hand, I was heartened to see that some Democratic senators are prepared to vote against the stimulus package despite the fact that it was crafted by their own party. This includes North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, who said he was going to vote against the project because he didn't believe it was "fully targeted, timely and temporary."

Let's hope they go back to the drawing board, put aside their partisan differences and come up with a stimulus package that will truly help the country out of this recession.

Rona Johnson
Features Editor
[email protected]